Let’s talk about the concept of ‘filler’.
It’s seen in many mediums. Think of an album that has two or three hits on it and a bunch of dreck. Or a show that’s run out of source material, and it meanders around with inconsequential matters for a while to take up space and ensure that there’s still content for the viewers to watch.
The Last Jedi feels a lot like a filler episode for most of its run time, with a nonsensical plot, characters making fantastical logical leaps, and an absolutely deadened sense of thrill or worry that numbs you to any real revelations it has to offer.
This all stems from two places: the writing and direction. While we do realise it takes thousands of people to make a film like this, we do feel like a lot of these problems need to be laid at the feet of Rian Johnson, the sole writer and director.
We won’t be dipping into spoilers but we will say that the story is cut into two sections that the film switches between: one focusing on The Force and the people who can use it, and the other on the Rebels versus the First Order.
The former is the more interesting, picking off right as The Force Awakens ends as Ray (Daisy Ridley) hands Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) his lightsaber. This eventually leads to them interacting with the other Force users, but it’s really where the padding of this films becomes apparent.
We did like most of the acting here from Ridley, Hamill and others, but the script gives them so much faff and nonsense to wade through (both in the plot and the dialogue) that anything meaningful takes ages to happen.
This isn’t a case of impatience, it’s the simple fact that it’s easy to predict what is going to happen thirty minutes from any point in the film, but it will still drag the plot out with “will they, won’t they” moments when the audience already knows the answer. This is partly because it’s a Star Wars movie, partly because The Last Jedi is predictable enough to guess, and bad pacing is sprinkled in there too.
All of this bleeds into the other half of the story, only more so. We’re not exaggerating when we say that this has some of the most BS reasoning we’ve ever seen. It involves not one, but two prolonged standoffs between the good guys and the bad guys here, both of which could have been ended in minutes if the characters (or the writers) took two seconds to think.
It spirals off into mini adventures that are equally uninteresting. Finn (John Boyega) and new character Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) go off to a Casino planet to find a McGuffin, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) plods around shouting at people and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) stands around looking worried.
All of these performers were kneecapped by the script which shovels in quips and cheese. Hearing a character in this universe using “page-turned” in a sentence as joke, just didn’t feel right.
Rose Tico just had nothing to do here and the movie would not have changed if she wasn’t included, and the same could be said for the Rebel leader Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern). These characters either create small roadblocks for existing ones to overcome, or they solve minor problems that are introduced on the fly.
We’re perfectly willing to accept that maybe all this filler, plot holes, detours and new characters are here as setup for Episode IX, but that still leaves The Last Jedi as an unfulfilling movie.
This may be why the third act is the best part of the film, as the two stories finally converge and some real universe-altering events happen.
It’s also where the battle involving the red planet – Crait – seen in the trailers happens. It’s visually stunning and more than a little reminiscent of the Battle of Hoth. It is, once again, plagued by the fact that the battle could have ended in a single minute if the most obvious decisions were made, but, hey, gotta have that big showdown to end a movie, right?
Apart from this the other standout event answers a question many Star Wars fans have wanted to know about hyperspace. This may sound like fan service, but the way it was presented is visually stunning, and the sound which accompanies it is a big reason why you should watch this in theatres.
The other joys to be had here all come from this being Star Wars. Seeing old characters, droid and even vehicles is always a pleasure, even when mixed in with the new elements.
After the credits roll and the music stops, you’re left feeling that The Last Jedi has untapped potential. Maybe this was because Rian Johnson didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do with his movie, and he felt the need to stall with prolonged story threads. Maybe this was meddling by Disney for a future movie(s). Maybe it was just a flawed movie with many contributing factors.
Oh, and the Porgs are blatantly in this movie just to sell toys.